One month later……
Reagan had never been more nervous in her life. She was going to become a homeowner today, and live on her own. It had only been a month since Evan helped her make the offer.
She and Evan sat in his office waiting for the loan closer to arrive with the paperwork. The seller had closed the day before and had moved out of the house. Now it was Reagan’s turn.
Her dad insisted on accompanying her to the closing even though Ami was there, but having them both really helped calm her nerves, especially as far as the paperwork was concerned.
Finally, the closer arrived and they were called into the boardroom to sign the documents that would make her a homeowner.
An hour later she walked out with keys to her new home, her smile a mile wide. Evan was waiting outside the door. “Congratulations,” he said.
“Thank you Evan! You helped make it possible. I’m so excited!” said Reagan and threw her arms around him.
“Why don’t you two go check it out?” suggested Ami, “Take the rest of the day off? Unless you have appointments. Start your weekend early.”
“I’m game. Let’s go!” said Evan.
“Congrats sweetheart,” said Cole, “I’m so proud of you.”
“Thanks Dad. I appreciate you being here,” she said and hugged her father. Something changed in that instant, it was as if her heart softened towards him a little.
“I’m glad I could be. Tomorrow is moving day huh?” he asked, working his jaw and swallowing hard. He was trying not to cry and her heart softened a little more.
She smiled and began to get emotional too. “Yes, the truck will pick up my things and all the boxes.”
He grabbed her and hugged her again. “I love you Reagan. In always have and always will.”
She laughed through her tears. “Dad – I’m moving 20 miles away, not across the country.”
“I know…it’s just, I still worry about you … I … just be careful. And, if you need anything, I’m here for you.”
“You okay Cole?” asked Ami as they watched Evan and Reagan walk out of the office, chattering about moving boxes and cable TV.
“I’m worried Ami,” confessed Cole after the kids were out of earshot, “Avery’s parole hearing is in just 4 months. I’m afraid Reagan’s been talking to her and she’ll try to take advantage of Reagan if it’s granted.”
Ami blew out a slow breath as they walked down the corridor, making their way back to her office. “I know. I got a letter from the parole board. Surely she’ll stay away from Willow Creek.”
“I wish she would, but I doubt it. Dad told me the twins went to see her a few years ago. Reagan asked if she could see her back then, and I said no. But it was before I knew she had already been. Reagan never asked again, so I assumed she gave it up. Now, I’m not so sure. She was so emotional that day. Looking back, I can’t believe she just accepted my answer, but I was getting married and…Taylor was leaving for Paris…”
“I’m so sorry Cole. I had no idea. Avery gives me the creeps – sorry – and I know Reagan used to think about her a lot. But I also thought she had given it up.”
“Ami, what if Avery seeks out Reagan?”
“If the twins have been seeing her, she might.”
Ami took a seat on the couch in her office, so Cole sat next to her before continuing. “Ami,” he started, “We have to keep them apart. She’ll use them up and leave them broken. Especially Reagan. That poor girl finally seems happy. She and I are getting close again. Maybe we can appear at the hearing, and make a case for keeping her locked up?”
Ami sighed softly and shook head. “It took me years to stop having nightmares about Spencer running me down. I know Avery didn’t drive the car, but she knew and pretended she didn’t. I hate her Cole. I really don’t want to go. I’m sorry. Besides, it probably wouldn’t do any good anyway. Unless, maybe, you think it might.”
“Seriously, no, but I’m going to try anyway. I have to Ami – for my babies. But, if we can’t keep her locked up, then maybe we can at least make it clear she needs to stay away from our families. We’ve finally healed the wounds and rebuilt our lives, and it took years. We don’t need her coming back now and reopening them again.”
“Maybe,” replied Ami, “But it will be difficult to see her. Just the letter alone triggered a few nightmares.”
“Noah can go with you, and I’ll be there. Don’t let her win Ami,” pleaded Cole.
Ami sighed deeply and offered a sad little smile. “I’ll talk to Noah.”
“Thank you,” said and Cole and pulled her into a hug to comfort her. “I’m sorry Ami, for everything.”
“Not your fault brother,” she said softly, “she had us all fooled.”
The next morning……
Evan, along with Reagan’s entire family arrived bright and early to help her get moved in. The men assembled and then placed the furniture where Reagan directed, while Connie and Dannie put away dishes and hung up clothes.
By dinner time, they had made a sizable dent. There were still a few things strewn here and there, along with a fair amount of empty boxes.
Ryan was the first to complain. “Reagan, how in the hell do you have so much shit. I didn’t even have half this much when I moved! Why don’t we take a break? Order pizza and beer?”
“Sounds good,” agreed Evan, and grinned at Reagan. “He’s right, you do have a lotta shit!”
“Guys – keep it clean, Connie’s right here,” reprimanded Dannie.
“Sorry Mrs. Murdock,” said Evan, looking embarrassed.
“Moooom, I’m not a baby,” Connie quickly replied, her bottom lip stuck out.
“I think I saw some beer go into the fridge,” said Cole obviously trying to redirect the conversation.
“Yep. I put some of it away,” said Connie, “but I don’t want beer, ewww, even though I’m NOT a baby!”
“We’ll pick up some soda on the way to get the pizza,” said Cole, “Come on Connie, you can help hold stuff.”
“Is Ryan going?” she asked.
“Yeah squirt, I’m going,” said Ryan and winked at her.
“Reagan and I’ll get the table cleared off while you’re gone,” said Evan.
The foursome filed out and Reagan and Evan started clearing off the table and putting away the last few items.
She climbed up on the step ladder to put away the stemware. Evan handed one to her and when their hands touched, Reagan sucked in a breath. She had managed not to touch him again since the dance, until she impulsively hugged him after her closing yesterday. She had to work hard to pretend the hug didn’t mean anything more than friendship.
She looked down at him. “Evan, I can’t thank you enough for helping. It was really nice of you. This isn’t a fun job.”
Evan smiled back, holding his hand out to help her down. “l did it because I wanted to, and actually, I am having fun. Your family is great. In fact, Ryan and I have become pretty good friends.” Reagan took his offered hand, and once again, shivers of want raced down her spine.
When she was on the floor Evan didn’t let go of her hand. “You feel it too, don’t you Reagan?” he asked, his voice soft, yet his hand burning hot on her skin.
Reagan swallowed hard. “What?” she asked and licked her lips, suddenly imagining kissing him.
Evan somehow read her mind. He leaned in and lightly brushed his lips against hers. “That,” he said, his eyes smoldering.
“Oh….that,” she replied on a sigh, and Evan smirked at her.
“Yes,” he said slightly amused, eating her up with those eyes, “That. I’ve wanted to do that for awhile now, even before we went dancing. And I’m pretty sure, Reagan, you want to do that too. Don’t you?”
She swallowed hard trying to formulate a reply, but nothing came out, so ever so slightly, she nodded her head. Her body was betraying her.
Evan pulled her closer to him, and then, he kissed her again. Her eyes fluttered closed as her arms went around his neck.
Reagan took in the feel of his lips moving against hers, and the sensation of his tongue gently teasing her to open to him. She did and they began a slow dance with their tongues, gently exploring each other. It was the most sensual thing she had ever experienced. The man was making sweet love to her mouth.
Finally she had to move away and catch her breath or her legs would have given out. Nobody had ever kissed her like that before. She swallowed hard before speaking in a breathless voice she barely recognized. “We should probably find the plates….”
Evan crossed his arms, holding her in place with his eyes as he studied her for what seemed like forever, but was probably only a couple of heart beats. “On one condition, we talk about this after everyone leaves.”
Reagan stood there trying to decide what to do when a car door slammed, breaking the spell he had over her. “Oh, they’re back,” she said, letting out the breath she was holding and now almost able to breathe normally again. If he kissed her again … no, she couldn’t think about that anymore. It was messing with her head. She wasn’t sure how she felt about kissing him. Well she knew how she felt, but the risk was too high. For both of them.
Everyone came in talking and laughing. They all sat down with pizza, beer and a soda for Connie. Reagan felt warmed by the normalness of it all. This was her family. And it really was okay. Evan was right. She found she was enjoying herself, but wasn’t sure what changed. Was it Evan’s presence, the absence of Taylor or just that she was sitting in her own home that made the difference? Maybe it was all three.
Her dad and Evan began to tease Ryan about being buff. Now that he was working at the gym every day, he had definitely bulked up. Ryan shot back that it was better than having a ‘dad bod’ and Dannie reached over and poked him in the gut. Everyone laughed.
Then they discussed Connie’s gymnastics class, also at the gym. In the end, Reagan, Dannie and her dad agreed to sign up for a membership at Ryan’s insistence. Evan was already a member. Seems the gym was becoming a regular hot spot in Willow Creek.
Finally everyone’s belly was full and the trash bin was overflowing with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes. “Guys, I can’t thank you enough for your help,” said Reagan as she put away the leftover pizza. “I can finish the rest this weekend, no need to stay longer.”
Everyone hugged everyone else. Dannie, Cole and Connie left in one car and Ryan in his red jeep.
That left Evan. He turned to Reagan after the door closed. “That was nice. You really do have a great family. I used to think families were always dysfunctional. But you guys get along well. I’m jealous. All that was missing was Ami’s bunch and your grandparents. I’m actually surprised they weren’t here.”
Reagan rolled her eyes. “Well I told them we had enough help. As far as being dysfunctional … you don’t know the half of it. I think everyone was on their very best behavior. Although, since Taylor moved to Paris three years ago, it has been getting better.”
“Taylor? Your sister?” asked Evan curiously.
“Yes,” she replied, “My half sister. But if you want to see a real functional family, that’s Ami and Noah. They are so cool and have it all figured out.” She was trying her best to avoid the elephant in the room. The kiss.
“Come, sit down, you look like you’re about to drop,” said Evan motioning to the couch in the living room.
He was right, she was worn out and groaned as her muscles protested when she lowered herself to the couch. “I can’t believe how out of shape I am. I guess the gym membership was a good idea!”
“Nah, you’re just using muscles you don’t normally use. You’ll feel fine tomorrow. Want me to rub your neck and shoulders? Might help?”
Suddenly all of her aches and pains disappeared with the prospect of having Evan’s hands on her, even as alarm bells began to sound in her head. “That sounds nice.” She hoped she managed to say it without sounding breathy.
Evan chuckled, “Turn around,” he commanded.
Embarrassed, she immediately did as he asked. When he began to knead her neck and shoulders it was heaven and she moaned. Again, he chuckled. She could easily get used to hearing that sound. It was a damn sexy sound.
After a few minutes, not nearly long enough, he stopped and she sighed contentedly. “Better?” he asked.
“Mmmm. Much, thank you,” she said and turned to face him. When their eyes met, her stomach lurched. It was the same look he had given her earlier when they kissed.
“I should probably go and let you get to sleep,” he said, his voice husky.
Her shoulders slumped. “Oh,” she said, unable to hide her disappointment, even though it was the safest option.
Evan smirked at her. “That is, unless, you want me to stay and continue our conversation.”
Reagan couldn’t form any words. Instead of waiting, he leaned in and gently sipped her lips. Evan knew exactly how to kiss. Even that little bit of a kiss was full of promise.
He sat back and looked at her, the unasked question on his face, leaving the decision to move forward completely up to her.
She licked her lips again and leaned in to kiss him, but pulled back before their lips met, as her desire battled with her common sense. “Evan….maybe this isn’t a good idea,” she said, and died a little bit inside.
Several emotions quickly danced across his handsome face before he finally settled into one of concern, or maybe it was suspicion. “Why Reagan?” he asked simply.
Reagan had to take a deep breath to say the words she really didn’t want to say. “I don’t want to put your job, or mine, in jeopardy. If we do this,” she paused and motioned back and forth between them, “and it goes south, it’s going to make it weird at work. It could make it weird anyway. I would feel like we couldn’t tell anyone. Right now we work so well together. If that changes, one or both of us might lose our job.”
Relief then frustration crossed his face. “You mean I would get fired. You have connections.”
She felt terrible, like she was leading him on. A relationship with him seemed complicated, even though she wanted this so badly, at least her body did. “Evan…” she said, knowing he was probably right, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to lead you on.”
“You didn’t,” he said and shrugged, “But honestly Reagan, I really do think you feel this thing between us too.” He paused and let out a deep sigh, “I do need my job, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think it would go south, because you’re right, we do work well together. So this is it then?”
She nodded her head on the verge of tears.
“So, I guess I should go,” he said and sighed softly.
“Can we forget this happened? Please?” asked Reagan.
Evan stood up to leave. “Of course,” he said and gave her a sad smile. “See you Monday, at work. I promise not to make it weird. If you need any more help with the house, let me know.”
“I’m good,” she said. There was no way she was having him at her house alone again. She wouldn’t be able to say no. It took everything she had not to tell him to stay right now.
“Yeah, well, if you change your mind then,” he said, then turned and walked out of the door.
Reagan could finally breathe again once the door closed. She walked the few steps into the kitchen and grabbed a beer out of the fridge. She flopped back on the couch remembering his kiss and the way his hands felt on her neck. She took a long drink and closed her eyes. A lone tear escaped beneath her lashes. She suddenly felt very, very alone instead of free.